Infrastructure is an essential ingredient for sustainable economic development and global prosperity. An inadequate supply of transport, water and energy networks, a lack of basic health and sanitation infrastructure, and unsatisfactory communications networks all affect the well-being of people, especially in low and middle income countries. But also in the developed world, the need for infrastructure updating on a large scale has lately become a key concern. Policy-makers and experts have repeatedly pointed to the persistently low rates of infrastructure investment: total annual investment needs are estimated to amount to 3.7 trillion USD globally, leaving an infrastructure investment gap of roughly one trillion USD a year at current investment rates.
Such quantitative projections, however, appear to be of only limited value. They perpetuate the traditional economic models based on investment-driven growth, and neglect the critical need to define sustainable development pathways that include parameters of human well-being, the environment and global climatic conditions alongside GDP growth figures. The challenge is more than simply a lack of funding. Rather, what is really needed is a new sustainability paradigm for infrastructure development projects, encompassing (1) economic viability, contributing to economic growth and job creation as well as being fiscally viable, (2) environmental protection, maintaining the integrity of eco-systems, using resources efficiently and ensuring low-carbon, climate-resilient construction and operation processes, and (3) social inclusiveness, contributing to poverty alleviation and targeting the needs of the population.
Although international debates about environmental, social and economic sustainability have gained momentum, especially also in the context of the climate negotiations leading up to the Paris agreement and the endorsement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, there is still a lack of concrete political frameworks and business strategies to implement sustainability criteria. The proposed session will focus on the following two sets of questions related to public sector solutions on the one hand and private sector solutions on the other:
How to build frameworks and procedural strategies for sustainable infrastructure to be implemented by governments? What are the main existing public procurement practices applied by multilateral development banks and different national governments. What could be a consensus on levers that tip the balance toward sustainable projects?
How to link the value of sustainability in infrastructure projects to macroeconomic levels? What are effective methodologies to assess and measure sustainability in the private sector, i.e. concretely in a business plan through variables that change the return on investment accordingly?
A selection of literature has been compiled by our team of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics in the following list. You can use EconBiz to research further information and literature.
The project group of the Heinrich-Heine-Schule Heikendorf is working on the topic “How to Effectively Implement Sustainable Infrastructure Projects”. The project group is supported by an expert team of the YES! 2016.
Pictures (from top to bottom): (c) shutterstock / Creativa Images, (c) Heinrich-Heine-Schule Heikendorf, (c) Global Economic Symposium.